Our third year facilitating our Hands On! Philanthropy workshop for UW's StartUp Learning Community was certainly one to remember! The StartUp Learning Community at UW-Madison is comprised of around 60 freshman who live together on one floor of a dormitory based on their shared interest in entrepreneurship. These students live together and study together, creating bonds that often last well beyond their years at the university. Every spring there is an MHR-321 Social Entrepreneurship class offered exclusively for the StartUp Learning Community students. This class introduces the students to the key concepts of starting and running a nonprofit or social enterprise and explores how entrepreneurial approaches can serve to increase impact in the nonprofit sector. Once again, we were privileged to collaborate with Professor John Surdyk and Sari Judge. John teaches the MHR-321 class and acts as the UW School of Business Faculty Director to the StartUp students. Sari is the StartUp Learning Community Program Coordinator and is one of the main driving forces behind the students' StartUp experience.
Each year in this workshop, students set out to explore key concepts around strategic philanthropy, learn about the power of purposeful philanthropy, and refine key personal and professional skills such as communication, collaboration, decision making, storytelling, and the sharing of values. They are challenged to understand and articulate what social causes really matter to them and why. With that, they form teams and set out to identify nonprofits that share their visions and passions.
However, 2020 had something else in mind for us… the COVID-19 pandemic.
Faced with the massive disruption this pandemic caused, we were called upon to re-imagine this Hands On! Philanthropy workshop and still find a way to provide an educational and inspiring collaborative giving experience that promotes purposeful philanthropy and makes an impact in the Madison community. Taking a thoughtful and purposeful approach to philanthropy is much like creating a business plan for a business. One of the most important characteristics of either a business plan or philanthropic plan is the ability to adapt as the environment around us changes. This is what we refer to as agility. As philanthropists, we need to continuously assess our circumstances and the needs of our community and adapt our approaches to addressing those needs.
The StartUp students rose to the occasion and found a way to pivot their focus to the needs of the Madison community in its response to this extraordinary and somewhat surreal public health crisis. Each team did so while still honoring their team’s original vision and mission. Instead of concluding the program with our usual celebration where the teams share the details of their workshop journey with the program sponsors and the nonprofits they’ve selected, we created award letters to the organizations wherein the students each provided a written and video reflection of their Hands On! Philanthropy journey and why they were drawn to the organization their respective teams chose to receive this year’s Dream Big Community Impact Awards.
The 2020 StartUp cohort showed inspiring resilience, agility, a bias towards action, and community spirit. They found a way to stare down adversity and still make a difference.
Congrats are in order for the Dream Big Community Impact Award recipients:
These worthy organizations received a significant grant and our deep appreciation for the good work that are doing in the Madison community.
Hats off again to the students, Professor John Surdyk, Sari Judge, and the terrific nonprofits who were involved in the workshop. We look forward to another engaging program next spring!
SPECIAL BONUS! Scroll down to check out the video messages below - hear directly from the 2020 Startup cohort and from the nonprofits they chose to support !
Bridges Built: 12 Participants x (11 Colleagues + 3 Nonprofits + 1 Sponsor) = 180
And hear directly from the 2020 Startup cohort and from the nonprofits they chose to support.
Then stay tuned for the Case Study where you'll be able to read more about this extraordinary group of students and their journey to becoming Purposeful Philanthropists!
The case study will contain some great quotes from Professor Surdyk, the nonprofit award recipients, the students and Jay Weisman, who facilitated the workshop.